Every year there are trainers at Del Mar with barns full of top racing prospects, and then there are trainers that make do with eight or 10 stalls at the seashore -- and do well with a small stable.
J. Eric Kruljac is one of those on the lower end of the scale. This year his eight stalls produced two winners in the first two days of racing, and at one point none of his first six runners was worse than third. It was on Wednesday that his first runner finished out of the money -- and he was fourth.
Kruljac's winners are being primed for graded stakes company in their next starts. Miguel's Mascot, an impressive opening-day in a maiden special weights event, is headed for Sunday's Grade II, $150,000 Best Pal Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track, and second-day winner Bullsbay is expected to run in the Grade II, $300,000 Pat O'Brien Handicap at 7 furlongs on Pacific Classic day, Sunday, August 24.
Also headed for stakes competition is Triumphant Flight, who had trouble early and then came hard down the stretch to miss by a nose in the Cal-bred Graduation Stakes Wednesday, July 23. He's on his way either to the I'm Smokin for Cal-breds on September 1 or the Del Mar Futurity Wednesday, September 3, Del Mar's closing day.
Kruljac is able to shuttle horses from Fairplex Park in Pomona to run out of his eight stalls here, so he does have backup options.
Kruljac has won two stakes at Del Mar -- the 2000 CTT & TOC Handicap with Gleefully and the 2003 Solana Beach Handicap with Centerofattention. But what he's most known for is the filly Leave Me Alone, winner of the 2005 Grade I Test at Saratoga Race Course. Kruljac said he'll never go back to Saratoga to run because, he said, "I ran one horse there and she won a Grade I by eight lengths. I'm perfect there. Why would I go back?"
She sold as a broodmare prospect to Castleton Lyons Farm in Lexington, Ky., for $1 million in the Fasig-Tipton select sale in November 2006 and she foaled an A.P. Indy filly this past winter.
PLACID LAKE OUT OF HIRSCH; 2 LEAVE CALIFORNIA DREAMIN'
Placid Lake, trained by Vladimir Cerin, was scratched this morning from today's Grade II, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap on the main track in favor of running in Sunday's Grade I, $400,000 John C. Mabee Handicap on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
Placid Lake had been entered in both races. Joel Rosario will ride Sunday.
Placid Lake's departure reduces the field to eight, with the undefeated Zenyatta, going for her seventh career win, ruling as a 3-5 morning-line favorite. The Hirsch, at 1 1/16 miles, is slated as the day's ninth race.
In the California Dreamin' Handicap for Cal-breds 3 years old and older, Tiz Afire, trained by Martin Jones, and Cheroot, trained by Darrell Vienna, were scratched this morning, dropping the field to four and eliminating show wagering. The race is carded as the third of 10.
BLACK MAMBA SOLID FAVORITE IN SUNDAY'S MABEE HANDICAP
Black Mamba, from the red-hot John Sadler barn, is the solid even-money morning-line favorite for Sunday's Grade I, $400,000 John C. Mabee Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
Never out of the money in nine starts for Sadler, the 5-year-old New Zealand-bred will be looking for her first back-to-back wins in this country, having won the Beverly Hills Handicap June 29 at Hollywood Park. She won an allowance at Del Mar in her first U.S. start last August.
Garrett Gomez has the call.
The rest of the morning line for the eight-horse field: Foxysox, Rafael Bejarano, 9-2; Passified, Mike Smith, 5-1; Solva, Aaron Gryder, 6-1; Green Lyons, David Flores, 8-1; Ransom Captive and I Can See, 15-1, and Placid Lake, 20-1.
ALL-STAR CAST SHAPING UP FOR WEDNESDAY'S SORRENTO STAKES
A cast of at least eight is building for Wednesday's 40th running of the Grade III, $150,000 Sorrento Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track.
The Sorrento is a prime preparatory race for the Grade I, $250,000 Del Mar Debutante at 7 furlongs on the main track, Monday, September 1.
Headlining those committed to the race is Emmy Darling, winner of Hollywood Park's Landaluce Stakes, to be joined by her John Sadler stable mate Evita Argentina, an impressive Hollywood Park maiden winner.
Trainer Christopher Paasch will send out a pair also, Cosmic Queen, who finished third in the Landaluce after breaking her maiden at first asking, and Stardom Bound, who broke last and then charged home from way off the pace to finish second in her career debut at Del Mar. She was beaten a nose by Turtle Creek Bound, who is passing the Sorrento.
Also going forward with two starters will be Doug O'Neill, who will send out Cinderella winner Trifecta King and the maiden Silar Rules, last seen finishing fifth in Del Mar's CTBA Stakes July 18.
Maiden winners Amina and Malusita, neither of whom has run here, will test the Sorrento for trainers Paul Aguirre and Sal Gonzalez, respectively.
Trainer Jeff Mullins says Glitter City is a possibility. She won a maiden race at Hollywood Park and then finished second in the Landaluce.
FIVE EARLY COMMITMENTS GIVE BEST PAL STAKES GOOD LOOK
Unbeaten Azul Leon, fresh from a victory in the Grade III Hollywood Juvenile Championship July 5, leads an early list of commitments to the Grade II, $150,000 Best Pal Stakes for 2-year-olds going 6 ½ furlongs on the main track Sunday, August 10.
The Best Pal is a prep for the Grade I, $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on closing day, Wednesday, September 3.
Leading rider Rafael Bejarano has the call on Azul Leon and 2007 Eclipse Award champion rider Garrett Gomez will be aboard O'Neill's other entrant, S.S. Stone, who won his career debut at Hollywood Park.
Kelly Leek was an impressive winner in his debut at Hollywood Park for trainer Michael Machowski, and Charlie's Moment and Miguel's Mascot posted sharp maiden victories at Del Mar.
Captain Steel, a runaway winner in his second career start at Hollywood Park, is a solid prospect, but trainer Jeff Mullins says he'll hold off on his decision until the Hennessy colt works Tuesday.
DEL MAR PURSES BEING REDUCED STARTING AUGUST 13
For the first time in more than 30 years, purses will be reduced during Del Mar's summer of racing.
The 3.5 percent cuts will begin August 13 and will amount to about $10,000 per day, according to the track's chief financial officer, Michael Ernst. Part of the reduction will mean a $50,000 cut in the purses of the Grade I Del Mar Oaks on Saturday, August 16 and the Grade II Del Mar Derby on Sunday, August 31. The purses will now be $350,000 each.
Also being reduced by $25,000 to $100,000 each are the Solana Beach Handicap on Sunday, August 17, El Cajon Stakes on Friday, August 29, and Torrey Pines Stakes Sunday, August 31.
According to track officials during a press conference Friday the cut was triggered by a downturn in on-track handle and a slowdown in account wagering business because an experiment on account wagering that benefited Santa Anita and Hollywood Park was not extended to Del Mar because no agreement could be reached.
"Had we got that accomplished," Ernst said, "we would not be having this conversation."
SADLER GRABS LEAD AMONG TRAINERS; BEJARANO BOUNCES BACK
Mr. Consistency, trainer John Sadler, moved to the top of the trainer standings Friday with a victory in the second division of the C.E.R.F. Handicap by Coco Belle, a 4-year-old daughter of Storm Boot owned and bred by Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss.
The win gave Sadler his seventh victory of the week and ninth overall, to break an 8-8 tie with Mike Mitchell. So far this week, Sadler has saddled five winners, including Zappa in the Cougar II Handicap Wednesday. Sadler has six starters today; Mitchell has three.
Also Friday, Mitchell came under more pressure when Doug O'Neill's two wins jumped him into a second-place tie with eight wins.
Just when it appeared jockey leader Rafael Bejarano might be vulnerable, he bounced back to score two victories and go up by four wins over runner-up Joel Rosario, who drew a blank after two consecutive three-win days Wednesday and Thursday. Bejarano now has 18 wins to 14 for Rosario.
SHORE LINES -- Racing fans may have been watching a pair of Del Mar Oaks prospects in Friday's sixth race, a $63,000 allowance/optional claimer, as Irish-bred Yasinisi and British-bred Comeback Queen tore down the stretch to finish 1-2 in the mile turf race. The win for Yasinisi was her first since coming to trainer Patrick Gallagher in 2007 after racing in England. Comeback Queen, who was scratched from the also-eligible list of the San Clemente Handicap after arriving from England earlier that week, is trained by Ben Cecil ... Hollywood Gold Cup winner and Pacific Classic prospect Mast Track clicked 5 furlongs this morning in 59.80 in a morning filled with important works. Also on the work tab: American Oaks runner- up and Del Mar Oaks prospect Satan's Circus, 48.60 for a half-mile; Oceanside division winner Dixie Chatter and La Jolla Handicap prospect, 1:00.60 for 5 furlongs; Crimson Star, also heading toward the La Jolla, 1:02.40, and Kool Comic, headed toward the Real Good Deal Stakes Friday, 1:00.60 ... Brad Hennegan, the younger of the two brothers who made the movie, "First Saturday in May," will be in the Plaza de Mexico, across from the Silks Gift Shop to sign the DVD of the movie Sunday from 1:00 to 2:30 pm. ... The seventh annual golf tournament to benefit the California Equine Retirement Foundation, hosted by jockey Alex Solis, will be held Tuesday, August 5 at the Del Mar Country Club. After the golf outing will be awards, cocktails and a dinner buffet, followed by a live auction with Trevor Denman.
TRAKUS FACTS -- Fri., 8/1 -- Peak Speed: Race 4 (Polytrack) -- Tizsweetdreams -- 44.6 mph (first 3/16ths); Race 6 (turf) -- Barbara's Love -- 41.7 mph (first 3/16ths); Fastest Late Stretch Run: Race 7 (Polytrack) -- Silky Smooth -- 39.3 mph (final 16th); Race 6 (turf) -- Comeback Queen -- 39.6 mph (final 16th).
DEL MAR JOCKEY & TRAINER STATISTICS
(Current Through Friday, August 1, 2008)
Jockey -- Mts -- 1st -- 2nd -- 3rd -- Win% -- Money Won
Rafael Bejarano -- 74 -- 18 -- 17 -- 15 -- 24% -- $1,040,270
Joel Rosario -- 76 -- 14 -- 4 -- 13 -- 18% -- $483,940
Tyler Baze -- 76 -- 13 -- 10 -- 13 -- 17% -- $614,922
Garrett Gomez -- 51 -- 7 -- 9 -- 7 -- 14% -- $550,875
Victor Espinoza -- 62 -- 7 -- 8 -- 9 -- 11% -- $467,010
Alex Solis -- 47 -- 6 -- 12 -- 7 -- 13% -- $351,640
David Flores -- 48 -- 5 -- 8 -- 8 -- 10% -- $596,663
Martin Garcia -- 49 -- 5 -- 5 -- 5 -- 10% -- $184,194
Joseph Talamo -- 50 -- 5 -- 3 -- 4 -- 10% -- $246,886
Alonso Quinonez -- 39 -- 5 -- 2 -- 6 -- 13% -- $162,920
Trainer -- Sts -- 1st -- 2nd -- 3rd -- Win% -- Money Won
John W. Sadler -- 41 -- 9 -- 14 -- 2 -- 22% -- $585,197
Doug F. O'Neill -- 38 -- 8 -- 9 -- 4 -- 21% -- $326,249
Mike R. Mitchell -- 31 -- 8 -- 4 -- 4 -- 26% -- $571,030
Peter Miller -- 18 -- 5 -- 3 -- 2 -- 28% -- $158,700
Jerry Hollendorfer -- 23 -- 5 -- 1 -- 9 -- 22% -- $236,169
Clifford W. Sise, Jr. -- 10 -- 4 -- 2 -- 2 -- 40% -- $114,260
Gary Stute -- 12 -- 4 -- 2 -- 1 -- 33% -- $80,100
Eoin G. Harty -- 8 -- 4 -- 0 -- 0 -- 50% -- $280,840
J. Eric Kruljac -- 8 -- 3 -- 3 -- 1 -- 38% -- $145,840
Patrick Gallagher -- 15 -- 3 -- 3 -- 1 -- 20% -- $142,940
Winning Favorites Report
(Current Through Friday, August 1, 2008)
Winning favorites -- 25 out of 127 -- 19.69%
Winning odds-on favorites -- 5 out of 14 -- 35.71%
In-the-Money favorites -- 83 out of 127 -- 65.35%
In-the-Money odds-on favorites -- 12 out of 14 -- 85.71%